I seem to be on a bit of thriller binge at the moment – just finished “The Afrika Reich” by Guy Savile, a rather more conventional action/adventure-focussed thriller than “Endgame” (which I reviewed last month). I was interested in it for two reasons.
Firstly, I gather that its author initially tried it out on
the peer review site yourwriteon.com, which is something I’ve done with my own
writing – so I was interested to see the final product, once he’d been signed
up by a proper publisher.
Secondly and more importantly, it has a very interesting
premise – we’re in an alternative 1952, in a world where the British reached an
accommodation with Hitler after Dunkirk, the Nazis went on to defeat Stalin and
then (not satisfied with the amount of Lebensraum in Russia) expanded into
large tracts of Africa as well.
Our hero, Burton Cole (who will undoubtedly be played by Daniel Craig in
the film version, if there is one), is a British mercenary contracted to do one
last job – assassinate Walter Hochburg, a high ranking SS officer and Governor
General of Congo. In many
respects it reminded me of “Fatherland” by Robert Harris – especially the way
bits of information are casually dropped into the story about some of the
horrifying things the Nazis get up to in their Afrika Reich (I won’t spoil it
by spilling the beans).
If you like lots of action, then this is certainly one for
you – it is very fast-paced and I could see many of the scenes translating very
well onto the big screen. But
whilst I might be prepared to suspend my disbelief in the cinema, it’s not
quite the same on the page – and I did start to have difficulty believing that
our heroes could really survive the cumulative effects of the extreme violence
which is inflicted on them as they fight their way across Africa. I would also
like to have had more detail about the alternative world, especially its
politics, than we actually get.
I suppose the author had to make a difficult choice as to
whether he was writing a mass market thriller or a rather more niche book
focussing more on the alternative history aspect. I get the impression he did quite a lot of research but that - possibly - a lot of this had to be jettisoned to make it into the fast-paced thriller that
it is now. My ideal would have
been for the publishers to bring out two versions – one exactly the same as the
published version and another that takes things at a slower pace and provides
more texture and background (a sort of “Director’s Cut”, to use the movie
terminology). Of course, this
would have been an awful lot more work for the author and I can’t blame him for
opting for the more commercial route – he has certainly produced an extremely
But I’m afraid neither this nor “Fatherland” can displace my
favourite WWII alternative history novel, which remains “The Man in the High
Castle” by Philip K Dick (currently being adapted for TV by the BBC). Interestingly, Dick also has the Nazis
doing similarly appalling things in Africa, as well as draining the
Mediterranean to provide additional farmland (yes, there really were plans
to do this). Somehow he manages to combine high
politics and the lives of ordinary people in a way that neither of these two more
recent novels quite manages to do. But well done to Guy Savile for producing such an interesting thriller and managing to get it published.
In : Book reviews
Tags: "afrika reich" "alternative history" "philip k dick" "the man in the high castle" thrillers
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